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National NOW Times >> Spring 2003 >> Article

It's About Discrimination

by Lisa Bennett, Communications Director

Ann Telnaes Cartoon: Augusta National Golf Club
NOW activists and other women's rights and civil rights supporters will be in Georgia this April for the prestigious Masters golf tournamentónot to watch the event, but to protest its home, the Augusta National Golf Club. Most everyone knows the story: Augusta is an elite club that denies membership to women. Martha Burk, Chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations (of which NOW is a member), has led the effort to persuade Augusta to change its policy. Augusta Chair William W. "Hootie" Johnson has responded belligerently, claiming that sex discrimination does not rise to the level of race discrimination and insisiting that he will not buckle under to public pressure. Several high profile members of the club have since quit.

Johnson talks about Augusta being "private," which gives him the right to proudly hang his "No Girls Allowed" sign. However the attention that is focused on the club every April is very public. CBS televises the Masters, and top corporations line up with sponsorship dollars.

"The controversy surrounding the Masters and Augusta is NOT about golf, any more than Title IX is only about sports," said NOW President Kim Gandy. "It's about denying women access to the power and privilege that come with belonging to such a club." Gandy notes that alliances are formed among members at Augusta that result in business deals and career advancement.

Gandy concludes, "Not until women can walk through the same distinguished gates as men will we be able to say that we're truly equal."

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